With a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers were officially eliminated from playoff contention, capping off what has been a disappointing first season of the LeBron James era.
With the Lakers officially out of the playoff race, there are fans that are hoping the training staff will shut James down for the season. However, James himself wants to play every game he is healthy for in the final 10 games on the schedule because he says he’ll have plenty of time to rest in the offseason.
“[I’ll] have a conversation with the coaching staff, my trainer and go from there. But I’ll have five months to not play the game, so hopefully I can be in as many games as possible,” James said after the Lakers’ loss to the Nets on Friday.
Why does James, at 34 years old, want to play in meaningless games in March? Because it’s his job to.
“We have a job to do. Your job is to go out and prepare and play to the best of your ability. At the end of the day, there’s no reward for going out and doing your job. This is our job. And all you can try to do it at a highest level, James said.
"Obviously, we all make mistakes, I made a ton of mistakes. I wasn’t as good as I’m accustomed to being, and I was pretty sh***y. But at the end if you leave everything on the floor, you’ll be okay with that. So that’s what it’s all about."
The only issue with that is that every time James steps out on the court to do his job, he’s at risk of getting hurt, a risk that was on full display when James slipped and fell at the end of the loss to the Nets. Sure, that's a risk anyone in the NBA takes, but it’s especially true for a player like James that has a lot of mileage (46,134 minutes) on his body and is still recovering from a groin injury he suffered in December.
Every time he hits the floor and stays down, it’s hard to not to fear the worst. Remember, Bryant was also 34 years old when he suffered his Achilles tear.
In spite of the risk, James is hoping to play in the Lakers’ next game on Sunday, which is one of his goals for the final few games of the season.
“Staying healthy. Obviously, I took a pretty nasty fall late in the fourth quarter. Hopefully I feel better tomorrow, especially going into this Sunday.”
Once the season is over, though, James plans to use the summer to get some much-needed rest after playing in the postseason for the past 13 years, including the NBA Finals in the last eight.
“For me, I’ve played a lot of basketball over the last 16 years, so to be able to get the offseason (to get) as healthy as possible, it gives me enough time to recalibrate my body and recalibrate my mind as well, and get ready for next season.”
This summer will be valuable to James if and only if he goes into it fully healthy. The best way to ensure that happens is if he uses the rest of the season to rest. We'll see how much he does.
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